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Library displays Riggs’ artwork

Both seen, unseen world inspires Dallas artist’s paintings, artwork

Riggs with a collection of her favorite works from the past few years. On the left is a depiction of the four directions. In the center is the Greek goddess Artemis, portrayed as a hunter. On the right is Sumerian goddess Inanna entering into the underworld.

Photo by Aaron Newton

Riggs with a collection of her favorite works from the past few years. On the left is a depiction of the four directions. In the center is the Greek goddess Artemis, portrayed as a hunter. On the right is Sumerian goddess Inanna entering into the underworld.

November 12, 2013

DALLAS — One of the first mediums art students are exposed to in school is watercolor.

It's safe, easy to clean up and it provides children a means of discovering art that is easy to produce.

However, watercolor isn't just for kids slapping amorphous blobs onto paper.

It is a centuries-old technique used by some of the world's most renowned and respected artists, such as German Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Drer.

For Dallas resident Susan Riggs, it's not about connecting with artists from the Renaissance, it's just what speaks to her.

Riggs has been creating intricate — and sometimes risqué — paintings of strong feminine subjects since 1987.

"It's what I'm supposed to be painting," Riggs said. "We live in such a patriarchal society that I think the feminine energy needs to be out there."

Riggs came to Dallas in 1985 with her husband, Ted.

Living in the Los Angeles area for decades wore the couple down and they needed to get out, Riggs said.

In her newest artistic endeavor, Riggs polishes a plume stone Nov. 7 at the Salem Center 50+ during its daily lapidary class. Riggs was drawn to the craft because of the intrigue of seeing the inner makeup of various stones.

Photo by Aaron Newton

In her newest artistic endeavor, Riggs polishes a plume stone Nov. 7 at the Salem Center 50+ during its daily lapidary class. Riggs was drawn to the craft because of the intrigue of seeing the inner makeup of various stones.

"I was the one that wanted to move up here. Ted said, 'OK,'" she said. "We wound up in Dallas. Everybody said, 'Do you know anybody up there?' I said, 'Yeah, the realtor.'"

Riggs' foray into painting might not have happened if not for that leap of faith move to Dallas.

Soon after the couple settled down, Riggs found herself in a women's-only art group headed by Charlotte Lamb.

The Wednesday Artists, as they are known, started in 1984, and Riggs, with her background in commercial art, soon found herself immersed in the group.

"When I met her she said I ought to take this painting class. That's where it all started," Riggs said. "I guess we got to talking about stuff and I realized I was actually on a journey with my painting."

That journey has taken Riggs from Native American culture — thanks in part to her grandmother, Nancy Alice, who was a Blackfoot tribal member — to her current obsession with Gothic art.

She finds inspiration in almost every facet of life — from "watching it get dark outside" to reading a book — if something grabs her attention, it will most likely end up as some form of art.

While watercolor has been her medium of choice over the years, Riggs has delved into a variety of art forms.

During the weekly Wednesday Artists session, Riggs works on a Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired piece on the four directions. The Wednesday Artists meet at the Dallas United Methodist Church.

Photo by Aaron Newton

During the weekly Wednesday Artists session, Riggs works on a Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired piece on the four directions. The Wednesday Artists meet at the Dallas United Methodist Church.

Most recently — as of Nov. 7 — Riggs undertook a new creative outlet — handstone carving.

"I've got a lot of interesting rocks I've found on my property. I'll cut them open and see what's inside," Riggs said. "I'll be the first human to see the inside."

Riggs' penchant for diving headfirst into new art forms and ventures has led her to put her watercolors on the backburner for the last few years.

She's just now getting back into it, but it's tough when you have so many other interests.

"Astronomy, astrology, quantum physics … particle physics more than quantum," Riggs said. "I've always been very curious about everything."

Ted Riggs was always supportive of Susan through her journey, even though their particular spiritual philosophies didn't always line up.

The couple was married for 27 years until Ted's death three-and-a-half years ago.

"He's waiting for me in the cosmos. He said he'd sail around out there and wait for me," Riggs said. "I still talk to him. Lots of times it's cussing."

The Dallas Public Library is displaying some of Riggs' work through November.

Riggs couldn't display everything she wanted to — some of her work is not necessarily family friendly.

Nevertheless, all the work on display has particular meaning to her; every work is special.

"I have this idea I'm going to paint, and pretty soon the painting takes over," Riggs said. "I get attached to a lot of them because it takes maybe three months to finish one."